The Dilemma of Expanding Sales
With the support of existing customers, Eriko and her team set out to forge relationships with wholesalers. Thankfully, their wholesaler customer base grew steadily, and before they knew it, they had expanded the Motherhouse brand to 10 stores, including major department stores. Products were sold out at a rapid pace online, and the brand even began to offer pre-orders.
On the morning of April 30, an article of Motherhouse was published on the front page of one of the largest newspaper companies in Japan. Post-article, Eriko and her team began to receive a constant stream of phone calls from major department stores, all expressing their desire to sell the brand's products. Orders also started pouring in on the brand's online website.
Sales increased tenfold since 2006. As a result of the increase in sales, Motherhouse was awarded an exclusive 2-year sales contract in Japan for a fabric called, "Jute 6lb". The Motherhouse team also began to grow and expand steadily following the gradual rise in sales.
The number of sales staff, part-time staff and interns gradually increased and Motherhouse finally secured an office, and warehouse in Japan. In Bangladesh, team members in the factory grew tenfold, from 4 to 40 people in total.
With Motherhouse presenting stable growth both in sales and team members, Eriko felt that she as well, was steadily approaching her dream. At the same time, there were also underlying feelings of confusion within her. In the beginning, Eriko was able to remember each and every one of her customers who purchased products from the brand. However, as sales at their wholesalers increased, there were a rising number of customers whom she could not meet directly.
"Motherhouse has always been a company that grows with its customers. I can't tell you how much encouragement I received from customers who commented on our blog, supporting us. I want to take better care of each and every one of our customers, to see them face to face, to talk to them, to share our products with them. I want them to hold our products physically in their hands. I want to convey the voices of our customers to our team members back in Bangladesh, so that they can take pride in their craft and continue to work towards the creation of even better quality products."
With all these thoughts, Eriko decided, "Yes, let's open a store. Let's open our own store."
Building Our Own Store
With that goal in mind, Eriko and the team set out in search for the best location for Motherhouse's first directly-operated store. They visited Omotesando, Jiyugaoka, Kichijoji, Ebisu and other popular streets filled with fashionable stores. Everyone in the team worked together to help search for suitable properties.
Eventually, the team realised that whenever they found properties that they liked, the properties required huge investments. Time passed as the search continued, without a decision being made. During this period of time, Eriko was renting a warehouse in Iriya, Taito-ku, Tokyo, where the team inspected products, made deliveries and sometimes held meetings till late at night.
The warehouse was filled with many precious everyday encounters. An old man once came up to Eriko and laughed, "You'll destroy your body if you work till that late at night!" On another occasion, when the team was building furniture for an event, a neighbour approached and said, "Can you fix my furniture too?" When Eriko replied that they lacked the necessary tools, the neighbour responded by saying that there were tools stored in his house. Such daily conversations warmed the atmosphere in the warehouse. What was lost in the city, was alive and well in downton Iriya.
"Let's turn this warehouse into a store."
The work to convert and transform the warehouse into a store began immediately. Although there were some apprehensions, with the help of Motherhouse's advisors, the team managed to build their first store independently.
The design concept of the store was "House". The team's goal was to create a place where customers could feel at ease and within natural surroundings, as if they had returned to a second home. The store was furnished in red, a brand colour, and the natural hues of wood. The team stripped off the entire ceiling, and laid wood on the floor to create an environment reminiscent of a store inside a house. The store's interior was a reflection of Motherhouse's main value — dreams. The faces of the brand's motivated crafters, the appeal of jute and the brand's journey thus far were plastered on the walls of the store. Imbued with the thoughts of Motherhouse, the brand's first store was finally completed.
August 21, 2007 marked the opening of Motherhouse's first store in Iriya, Taito-ku, Tokyo. The direct management of the store brought the team closer to customers, and the relationships built were a key factor in the growth of Motherhouse with regards to product development, staff training and daily operations. The store became a place where Motherhouse could grow in all aspects.
Continue on to Part 5.